Sunday, October 6, 2013

Dr. Azor Betts vs Smallpox and George Washington

Dr. Azor Betts (1740-1809) is a distant cousin of mine. His mother was Mary Beldon and I descend from another Mary Beldon who is a cousin of Dr. Azor Betts' mother. Our common ancestor is Daniel Belden (1648-1732) of Deerfield, Massachusetts.

Dr. Betts' father was Nathan Betts and I'm also related to him through my ancestor Tama Betts (1754 - ).

Dr. Azor Betts was a physician in New York city at the beginning of the American Revolution in 1776. At the time there was a smallpox epidemic in the city and other parts of the colonies. George Washington had issued an order that no soldier of the Continental Army should be inoculated. In spite of this order Dr. Betts inoculated several officers at their urging.

Betts was arrested and George Washington issued a second order ...
The General presents his Compliments to the Honorable The Provincial Congress, and General Committee, is much obliged to them, for their Care, in endeavoring to prevent the spreading of the Small-pox (by Inoculation or any other way) in this City, or in the Continental Army, which might prove fatal to the army, if allowed of, at this critical time, when there is reason to expect thay may soon be called to action; and orders that the Officers take the strictest care, to examine into the state of their respective Corps, and thereby prevent Inoculation amongst them; which, if any Soldier should presume upon, he must expect the severst punishment.

Any Officer in the Continental Army, who shall suffer himself to be inoculated, will be cashiered and turned out of the army, and have his name published in the News papers throughout the Continent, as an Enemy and Traitor to his Country.

Upon the first appearance of any eruption, the Officer discovering of it in any Soldiers, is to give information to the Regimental Surgeon, and the Surgeon make report of the same, to the Director General of the hospital.
Dr. Azor Betts continued to give inoculations to officers of the Continental Army so he was arrested and imprisoned. He was freed when the British took over New York and the Continental Army retreated to New Jersey.

Dr. Betts became an officer in the Kings American Regiment (a Loyalist regiment) and later on was a surgeon in the Queen's Rangers. At the end of the war he moved his family to New Brunswick (Canada) and then to Nova Scotia where many of his descendants still live.